The Citizen Advocacy Center (CAC) is an award-winning, non-profit, non-partisan free community legal organization. Founded in 1994, CAC’s mission is to build democracy for the 21st Century by strengthening the citizenry’s capacities, resources, and institutions for self-governance.
CAC operates through the use of community lawyers who protect the public’s assets and promote meaningful participation in the democratic process. As an institution comprised of community lawyers, CAC engages in a holistic approach to building democracy through community organizing, coalition building, legal advocacy, civic education, and litigation to make government more accountable, accessible, and transparent.
Upon request, CAC will come to schools and speak with students on a variety of topics including those listed below. CAC can also utilize new technology to poll students on questions posed on PowerPoint slides with an internet tool called “Poll Everywhere,” which can be accessed through a mobile phone/iPad
For other ideas, VIEW: CAC’s Civic Education Lesson Plans
(CAC will also work with teachers to design a program specific to individual interests)
Fake News – Recognizing the increasing use of the phrase “fake news,” students explore its meaning and what makes some news “fake” and other news “real.”
In “How to Spot Fake News: Lesson Plan and Activity” students are asked to:
- Define fake news
- Understand how society is impacted by fake news
- Understand how to differentiate fake from true news stories
- Apply the First Amendment to the issue of fake news
Students cover criteria to distinguish between deliberate misinformation packaged as “news” by examining the news reports that demonstrate the differences between news released by legitimate news agencies and intentionally misleading and deceptive “fake” news.
DACA – discussion regarding DACA policy changes.
Student Constitutional Rights (both in and out of school) – discussion on issues such as:
- kneeling during the national anthem
- organizing and/or participating in marches/rallies
- how students, administrators, parents, and communities are challenged to balance the competing interests of school rights and school order
- student speech and the First Amendment
- student privacy rights in school
- protecting students from discrimination
- school discipline
Student Journalist Free Speech Rights – discussion of actual cases such as the incident at Evanston Township High School in which all copies of the student paper were confiscated. The edition contained several stories about marijuana use in Illinois and at the school. Students had received prior administration approval prior to publication.
Organizing and Legal Assistance – issues include topics such as municipal permit requirements including evidence of liability insurance, following ordinances, assistance available in capacity of “legal observer”, citizen advocacy, legal advice regarding organizing, press outreach.
Skills for Active Citizenship – Discussions on rights and skills central to government watchdogs and active citizens.
- “Use your Voice”
- “Watch Your Government I: The Open Meetings Act”
- “Watch Your Government II: The Freedom of Information Act”
- “Build an Issue Advocacy Campaign”
Ballot Access – Lessons include:
- Ballot Initiatives: Direct Democracy vs. Representative Democracy
- How Hard Is It to Run for Public Office?
- Third-Party Presidential Candidates: Barriers to Ballot Access
Campaign Finance – Lessons include:
- Federal Election Commission
- What Role Does Money Play in Politics? A Mock Campaign
- What Role Does Money Play in Politics? A Moderated Discussion
- How to Draft a Bill
- Mock Hearings: Senate Committee Hearing & Full Senate Vote
Open Meetings Act, Illinois – This lesson teaches students to use the Illinois Open Meetings Act in a practical manner as well as imparts an appreciation and understanding of the importance of citizen participation and open government as essential to democracy.
- What is Redistricting and why does it Matter?
- Understanding How the Lines are Drawn
Illinois Election Law– This lesson provides an overview of how elections work in Illinois and identifies who is eligible to vote. Through a mock election, students will investigate state election law and learn the processes and practices of voter registration and poll watching.